Illustrator How-To: Make a Logo Flow in Illustrator

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When Innosanto Nagara of Design Action developed a logo for a conference in Thailand on protecting the health and safety of the world's rivers, he was challenged by a flood of different applications and backgrounds. His logo had to work in a variety of media, from posters and report covers to t-shirts-and also against a variety of backgrounds, including a solid black square and a photograph. He met the challenge using Adobe Illustrator CS.

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Figure 1: The main final logo for the Rivers For Life conference.

Wave Action
Nagara designed the logo as two components: the conference title, "Rivers For Life," split into two lines; and the interleaving colored waves that separated the title lines. To interleave the blue and green wave shapes, Nagara began by drawing a set of curved blue shapes.

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Figure 2: The set of blue wave shapes Nagara drew as the first step of creating interleaved blue and green waves.

Instead of drawing a second set of green waves, Nagara selected the blue wave shapes he had just drawn with the Selection tool, and then double-clicked the Rotate tool. In the Rotate dialog, he entered 180° in the Angle field and then clicked the Copy button. With the copy still selected, he changed the fill color from blue to green. (When you double-click the Rotate tool, Illustrator automatically sets the rotation centerpoint at the exact center of the selected artwork. This means your copy precisely overlays the original on the artboard.)

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Figures 3a and 3b: The Rotate dialog and the green curves created when Nagara clicked the Copy button.

With the set of green waves still selected, Nagara completed the interleaving of blue and green waves by creating a third set of wave shapes. Using the Reflect tool this time, he double-clicked the Reflect tool (you can access this tool by pressing the mouse button down on the Rotate tool icon in Illustrator's tool palette). In the Reflect dialog, Nagara set the reflection Axis to Horizontal and clicked the Copy button. He changed the fill of the wave shapes to blue, giving him a blue-to-green-to-blue series of wave shapes.

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Figures 4a and 4b: The Reflect dialog and the third (blue) set of waves Nagara created by clicking the Copy button.

At The River's Edge
Nagara decided to cut into the top and bottom edges of the logo's lettering with a flowing wave shape to suggest the action of waves. Because the logo would appear in front of a variety of graphics and images, Nagara realized that he couldn't simply paste a color-filled shape in front of the type to visually block it. Instead, he needed a way to cut into the lettering with an object that would remain invisible against different backgrounds.

After typing the two lines of type as separate type objects, Nagara drew a new wave shape with the Pen tool and copied it so he could use it later with the second line of type. He moved the wave shape over the type until it blocked the lettering the way he wanted.

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Figure 5: Nagara drew this wave shape to serve as the subtracting object when applying the Subtract from shape area.

Then he selected the type object and the wave shape and, from the Shape Modes section of the Pathfinder palette, clicked the Subtract from shape area icon.

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Figure 6: The Pathfinder dialog.

For the bottom line of type, Nagara selected the type object and selected Paste in Front to overlay the wave shape in front of the second line of lettering. He repeated the Subtract from shape area command to complete the logo's type.

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Keep Things Fluid
When you apply one of the Pathfinder's Shape Modes to artwork, the result is a compound path in which the top object (in Nagara's case, the wave shape that subtracts from the type object below it) remains editable. You can select the subtracting shape with the Direct Selection tool and modify it with the Direct Selection or Pencil tool if you'd like. This is especially useful when the uneven contours and counters (holes) of a line of lettering require that you fine-tune the subtracting shape. If you use the same object more than once, as Nagara did, you can tweak each one to make them appear a little different, giving greater spontaneity to the finished artwork.

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Figure 7: Selecting the subtracting shape within the compound path.

Be careful, when working with a compound shape, to remember that selecting the subtracting shape and applying a stroke width will not change how much that shape cuts into the object below it. You may be tempted to try this because, if you were working with a color-filled shape that you position over your type, adding a stroke will increase the visual size of the shape, blocking more of the lettering underneath. Adding a stroke or increasing its width will be affect the bottom object -- when that object is type, a stroke will change the appearance of the letters.

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